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Travel: Coronavirus in the Middle East

The recent outbreak of a new type of coronavirus is continuing in the Middle East. 

Research published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases in late December found three camels caught the virus from a site where two humans contracted were infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). 

A Public Health England (PHE) statement said: "Although this shows the most recent outbreak affects both humans and camels, it is not possible to say who was infected by whom, or if a third source is responsible." 

PHE suggests that travellers to the Middle East at high risk of severe disease due to MERS-CoV (such as immunosuppressed individuals and those with underlying respiratory or cardiac conditions) should avoid farms or barns, in areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating.

If visiting a farm or a barn, all travellers should adhere to general hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals, avoiding contact with sick animals and ensuring good personal and food hygiene practices.

PHE stated more studies are needed to shed light on any animal-human links, as exposure to animals has only been noted in a limited number of human MERS-CoV cases. 

MERS-CoV is a new form of coronavirus, first identified in 2012. 

There is still limited information on how it is spread, the range of illness it can cause and the source of the infection. 

No new cases of MERS-CoV have been detected in the UK since February 2013. 

The risk of UK residents contracting infection in the UK remains very low. The risk to UK residents travelling to Middle Eastern countries may be slightly higher than within the UK, but is still very low.